The Washington Capitals didn’t get the result they wanted in their preseason opener against the Boston Bruins, falling 3-2 in a shootout. However, several players capitalized on their opportunities in the Capitals’ first exhibition game, giving head coach Peter Laviolette a lot to consider as skaters compete for vacant spots on the roster.
Here are a few takeaways from the Sunday tilt:
Hendrix Lapierre Showcases Speed, Ability
Lapierre has looked solid from the start of rookie camp following his breakout year in the QMJHL. He continues to put himself on the radar, and did so in style in his NHL preseason debut with the Capitals. Centering the third line with Joe Snively and Brian Pinho, Lapierre made the most of his opportunities.
He moved the puck efficiently up the ice, made strong passes and generated several high-danger chances. He also got to play the half-wall on the power play and ended the night with two secondary helpers.
“It was amazing, you know, to be out there and as a kid, you want to play in those games, you want to get put in those situation, you want to show yourself as much as you can,” Lapierre said.
Laviolette also liked what he saw from No. 29, and said the team is looking to utilize him more at the center position going forward. However, there are things that he has to work on, like face-offs (he won 18 percent of his draws). Still, his performance is a good sign that he’s well on his way to being a difference-maker at the NHL level. It’s just a matter of when.
“It’s different for sure. I think guys obviously are bigger, but they’re really smarter too,” Lapierre said of adjusting to the NHL pace, adding. “It’s definitely a different game than I guess, what I’ve played in the past years, just because the guys are the best in the world, you know. I think I can adjust to it and you know, it’s hockey at the end of the day, right? So you got to play your game and I think if I do that and if someone else do that he’s going to be good.”
Connor McMichael Still Proving His Worth
McMichael saw flashes of opportunity on Sunday, centering Daniel Sprong and Tom Wilson on the second line. The 20-year-old pivot logged 15:55 minutes and also logged 2:17 on the man advantage, playing mainly in Alex Ovechkin’s office. He generated some good opportunities and also picked up more speed as the game went on, finishing with one shot and going 8-for-15 (53 percent) in the face-off dot.
“It’s just little things that you got to do to make the next step… it’s going to be the little things that separate you from the next guy,” McMichael said.
Laviolette noted that he saw flashes of both postiives and negatives for McMichael, who is still competing for a spot in the NHL and could be making that jump with Nicklas Backstrom potentially out for a bit.
“There’s a lot of people that are going to get opportunities and it’s up to them to make the most of it,” Laviolette said. “He had a shot tonight, I thought he did a good job.”
Joe Snively, Garret Pilon Strike
Snively, a Herndon, V.A. native, fittingly scored the first goal of the Capitals preseason. It was off a great effort in front, where he kept track of the puck and battled his way to the front before sniping home the rebound while falling to the ice. He also played well alongside Lapierre and saw quite a few opportunities to score throughout the game. He finished with a goal, two shots and four total attempts in 11:22 minutes on the ice.
From Lil Caps goals to Big Caps goals! pic.twitter.com/JJu9HPyPoK
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 26, 2021
Pilon, who skated on the top line on the right wing, played a very strong game and also got on the scoresheet. He tied it for Washington to force overtime on a nice deke in front, and he also dished two shots and four hits.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 26, 2021
TvR, Fehervary, Schultz Lead On Defense
Three blueliners that stood out: Justin Schultz, Martin Fehervary and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Schultz was generating several scoring chances from the point and moving the puck well, while also forming a strong dynamic alongside Fehervary. He was solid in both ends, and also looked great on the power play and really ran things from the point. He led all blueliners in
Fehervary fumbled a bit to start, but as the game progressed, he improved. He moved well on the ice and played a lot of time shorthanded and even got some action on the power play. The Slovak defenseman also picked up a primary helper to set up Pilon’s game-tying tally. He ended up leading all defensemen in ice time (24:49) and registered two blocks and three hits.
“It was really nice. A little bit nervous but once I get going, I felt way better… I just shake it off and I think I had a good game,” Fehervary said.
Head coach Peter Laviolette was also impressed with No. 42’s performance.
“I thought he responded well. What really makes Marty noticeable sometimes, I think he’s explosive the way he skates,” Laviolette said. “He can almost, you know, flat foot or have to turn and pivot and go after somebody and yet he covers that ice really quick because he can explode with his strides. And so his skating really helps him out.”
Trevor van Riemsdyk also got to get in some practice playing on the left side. He’s vying for more ice time and a bigger role this season after playing in just 20 games for the Capitals in 2020-21. Brian MacLellan and Peter Laviolette have praised the defenseman, who was outstanding in a small sample size last season.
“It’s not that he’s not an everyday player last year it’s just that he didn’t play every day,” Laviolette noted. “He’s a terrific player… I thought he was really strong. Maybe one of our best defenders. Again got the puck moving out of the defensive zone.”
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Beck Malenstyn packed a punch — literally. The gritty forward led all Washington skaters with seven hits.
- Dmitry Orlov also made his mark, laying a huge check on Jakub Lauko.
Dmitry Orlov with a big hit on Jakub Lauko: pic.twitter.com/04wk0qGU8f
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) September 26, 2021
- Lars Eller and Tom Wilson each led the Capitals in shots (5).
- Dylan McIlrath received a five-minute major and game misconduct for an illegal hit to the head on Steven Fogarty.
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) September 26, 2021
- Pheonix Copley played the first two periods against Boston, making 12 saves on 14 shots. Vitek Vanecek got time between the pipes in the third and stopped all nine shots against, but surrendered two shootout goals.